Just over three weeks ago I went to Hanoi to participate in a special ceremony to venerate Our Lady of Perpetual Help at the Thai Ha church, and to participate in the struggle for justice and peace in the diocese.
After we had performed the holy ceremony at 6.30pm, I along with monks of the Redemptorist Order and a host of believers held hands and sang songs of praise to the Holy Mother and prayed outside the fence the communist erected when they illegally confiscated our land. This praise and prayer service was organized in a very reverent and careful manner, and did nothing at all to impede people coming and going. On August 15, after I had returned to Saigon, the monks and some Christian believers repeated a ceremony outside the fence, but this time they brought along a statue of Mary and placed it inside the fence, that is on the property which was illegally seized and which our Redemptorist Order in Hanoi and Christian believers there have been requesting to be returned, a problem which the government refuses to resolve.
After this event, reporters of the central government and Hanoi, the official state media, radio and TV, accused the Christians and Redemptorist monks of breaking the law, and distorted and twisted the truth. They did not produce a single piece of paper as evidence that the members of our order had voluntarily offered the property to the government, the property on which we plan to build a church to honor Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The Redemptorist monks affirmed, "We have enough evidence and proof to demonstrate that the property entirely belongs to the Redemptorist Diocese of Thai Ha and that it was illegally confiscated by a number of government departments." After the Redemptorist monks produced legal document showing ownership and government authorities could not produce anything that showed it was voluntarily given to government by the Redemptorist Order, as they claim, the monks again affirmed, "This land continues to be the property of the Redemptorist Order in the Thai Ha Diocese. The activities of confiscating, seizing, selling or ceding the land to others, without our approval and without any legal documentation is entirely illegal. We are determined to guard this truth and to guard justice and our property as the constitution and the law stipulate at any price."
If the truth is this clear, how come the state media of the central government and Hanoi city broadcast the exact opposite of this truth, for example this false story: "The Thai Ha church always turns its speakers way up so that it causes a loud public nuisance from 8:00 PM until 1:00 or 2:00 AM in the morning. At the same time some of the church officials speak crude words inciting people, words which are very hard to tolerate. The church also displays banners with lies, smearing government officials, speaking evil of our citizens and inciting the believers."
In the face of such slander, the Redemptorist monks resolutely affirm: "The words above are pure slander, insulting us monks and the honor of our citizens, the believers in our diocese in particular and the entire Catholic community. We request that all concerned government departments clarify this issue, and produce sufficient documentation to prove the stories that the official media has spread throughout the world at the earliest possible time. The gratuitous slander referred to above will fool no one and will have the effect of reducing trust in the political system not only among Catholics but the general population as well. The slander also goes contrary to the government's goal of uniting all citizens in mutual respect and of building respect for human dignity in a law-abiding society, which the government asks us to pursue." (From a petition dated 19/08/2008).
The monks conclude their petition with these words: according to the information provided above, based on the constitution and the laws of Vietnam, and Article 28 of the press law, we request:
1. That Vietnam State Television and Hanoi State Radio and Television, the New Hanoi Newspaper, the Capital Economic News, and the Public Security Newspaper strictly view the facts in an objective manner and to respect the truth and to organize and investigation to make corrections according to the laws in effect.
2. Investigate to find out which individuals are responsible for this deliberate distortion of the truth as described above.
3. Answer us in writing according to the provisions of the relevant laws now in effect.
By the facts related above and by countless other incidents of slander in this country, used to imprison, to confiscate home and property and the lands and fields of our citizens and of religious organizations particularly Catholics, we need to go to the source of communist doctrine.
Communist doctrine is atheistic and materialistic. Atheistic, meaning the belief that there is no Supreme Being, no Creator of the universe, no Creator of humankind who endowed mankind with a conscience in his heart that knows what is right to do and what is wrong to avoid. Materialism means that communists do not view human beings as having inalienable rights which no one should violate. Communism views people as tools to be used to serve the Communist party at any cost. Therefore the actions of communist regimes from the Soviet Union, to China, North Korea, Cuba and Vietnam brought about the wholesale robbery of money and homes and land of the their citizens.
In the Soviet Union, writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn who just passed away on August 5, 2008 showed in his monumental book Gulag Archipelago that during the ruthless Stalin regime that there was wide persecution of the innocent and the stealing of property of those they murdered. Intellectuals who opposed the regime were placed in mental institutions without reference to their sanity, and the writer himself was imprisoned nine years because he questioned Stalin. In the Gulag Archipelago the writer describes in detail the systematic abuses of the Soviet regime from 1918 to 1956, a system that built many prisons and concentrations camps. The publication of the works of Alexander Solzhenitsyn led to a systematic campaign against him in the Soviet press that accused him of being counter-revolutionary.
Communist regimes are that way -- for them the end justifies the means. Mr. Gorbachev saw the evil and the lack of humanity of communism and courageously stood up and dismantled the communist regime and moved it toward a democracy which respects human beings and respects religion. As he (Gorbachev) said to Pope John Paul II: "We need spiritual values, and we need a spiritual revolution, for this is the only thing that can provide a foundation for a new society and a new political order. We have changed our attitude toward a number of things, such as religion which we formerly evaluated much too simply. Now, not only do we conclude that no one may violate matters of individual conscience, we also affirm that the ideals religions have produced and consolidated though the centuries can help us renew our country. People who belong to various religions in the Soviet Union all have the right to satisfy their religious aspirations." (Time Magazine 11/12/1988)
And speaking of human rights, Gorbachev said, "The human rights of people under communism are not a gift of the government, and not a good deed done by anybody.. our reorganization is creating problems concerning the political rights of people.. we do not have the right to stumble on old dogmas and conserving the past, or to get hung up on anyone's prejudices or individual ambitions." (Liberated Saigon 01/071988)
And so we ask, did the Soviet socialist revolution changed at all in 70 years? Mr. Constantine Katchev, head of religious affairs said: "There are many changes. The main change is that religious believers will no longer be viewed as second class citizens. What happened with regularity under the Soviet constitution when religious believers were discriminated against and atheists given priority must stop." (La Republica 04/03/1989)
The Soviet Union is no more. The very core of the Soviet Union, now Russia, was renewed. And therefore, officials of Russia today have more respect for basic human rights, including the freedom of religion.
After the Soviet Union, Communist China, North Korea, and Vietnam still follow the road of communism which brings untold suffering to citizens, and especially to religious believers.
In Vietnam during the days of public accusations, children accused their fathers, wives their husbands, the young accused the old - leading to countless enmities and alienations because of the principle the end justifies the means. And countless times the murdered were robbed
After 1975 years, in the southern Vietnam, the Communists quickly established so-called re-education camps. This Vietnamese Gulag Archipelago was spread all over the country, from the north to the south, from the plains to the mountain jungles. And the plundering by government officials of citizens and religious organizations also began at the outset.
In January 1978, during one night police were sent to seize the Thu Duc Monastery which housed the Redemptorist Order, the Lasan Brotherhood, the Daminh Order and the Don Bosco Order and others. They drove the religious from the premises and imprisoned some of them, and the rest they held in one room so they could examine the institution without interference or witness so they could easily place pamphlets and guns and accuse the priests and monks of resisting the revolution. From that day on, many more such deceptive and illegal confiscations of the property of various orders and religions in the whole country were carried out.
With such a record and with the policy of the end justifies the means, how can the communists know what a conscience is, what justice is? They only have guns, jails and prisons and an endless system of secret police and a propaganda system controlled by government officials for their own ends how can such a government do anything for its citizens, anything for religious believers? Only the people and religions know what justice is. The Thai Ha situation is only one of series of systematic robberies by the Vietnamese communist regime today.
We earnestly hope that among those in the Communist Party today that there are those who love their country, love humanity, and have a true conscience that will lead them to stand up and lead a true renewal, a political revolution as did Mr. Gorbachev in the Soviet Union. We would then have a chance of creating for our people a new life worthy of their humanity, which would respect basic human rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion, and give us hope that our property and possession would be secured according to the rule of law and true justice.
The principle of human behavior today cannot be the end justifies the means but rather we must have good goals and an equally good means to reach them in order to serve our people and our country.